Florida State wins first ACC title (and get used to it)

Tournament MVP Michael Snaer (21) and teammates celebrate Florida State's first ACC championship (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Tournament MVP Michael Snaer (21) and others celebrate ACC title (Curtis Compton)

This means something to Florida State. That’s what makes it cool.

This isn’t Mike Krzyzewski giving that, “We lost, whatever,” look after Duke fell in the semifinals Saturday, or North Carolina’s Roy Williams waxing on famously about not caring if “those blue-haired old ladies” criticize him for not viewing the ACC tournament as wonderland.

Because for Duke and North Carolina, March is about the tournament with four letters (NCAA), not three. The ACC tournament, no matter its history and tradition, no matter the fans (blue hairs and others) traveling from Durham, Chapel Hill and all Tobacco roads in between, has been reduced to the dinner salad.

But not for Florida State. This is the entire right side of the menu.

The Seminoles are ACC champions – in football, not basketball. Leonard Hamilton, forever one of the nation’s better coaches whom nobody talks about, finally received some validation for what he’s accomplished over the past several years. On Saturday, Florida State upset Duke, winner of 19 conference tournament championships. On Sunday, it held on to stun North Carolina, winner of 17 tournament titles, 85-82, at Philips Arena.

Afterward, FSU players celebrated like they probably hadn’t since winning the Metro title in 1991, when nobody outside of Tallahassee really cared. (Actually, it’s debatable how many in Tallahassee really cared.)

“I feel like people will finally respect Florida State as a basketball program, rather than just give the ACC to Duke or Carolina from day one – just assume they’re going to win it,” said Seminoles forward Bernard James, who is from Savannah. “We’ve thrown our hat into the mix and now you’ve got to think about us from the beginning.”

It meant something. Florida State split two games with Duke during the regular season, then eliminated the Blue Devils in the semis. It pounded North Carolina by 33 points (90-57) in January, a moment so humiliating for the Tar Heels that “33” was written on a white board at the Heels’ arena as a motivator for the rest of the season.

North Carolina went 14-1 the rest of the season, the only loss coming by one point to Duke. But on Sunday, it was easy to tell which team was starving for attention.

The Tar Heels led only once — at 17-16, for exactly six seconds.

Florida State led by as much as 16 points late in the first half and 14 with 14:38 left in the game. The Noles buried jumpers (shooting 62.5 percent in the first half) and dominated inside.

Williams’ lament: “We didn’t play every possession with a great deal of intensity or concentration.”

North Carolina made its inevitable run, closing to seven points, then four, then one (83-82) with 31 seconds left after a three pointer by Kendall Marshall. But when Marshall missed a jumper with six seconds remaining, it pretty much was over.

The Noles mobbed each other at center court. Confetti fell. The largely powder-blue clad fans – they just sort of watched.

Afterward, Hamilton talked about what it means for his program to crash a party that had been dominated by two schools (Duke or North Carolina coming into the week had won the last seven ACC tournaments, 14 of 15 and 36 of 58 overall).

“We can’t replace Duke and North Carolina because of their history and tradition, but maybe now we’ll receive some recognition for what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We need to start stacking these up.”

Williams knows this wasn’t a fluke. He has been friends with Hamilton for over 30 years, since both were assistants (Williams at North Carolina, Hamilton at Kentucky). When somebody mentioned that Hamilton had become the first African American coach to win an ACC title, it struck Williams as an afterthought.

“To me he’s just a coach,” Williams said. “In my opinion he’s gotten a bad wrap about being just a great recruiter and not being able to coach. I’m not saying anything about him being the first African American because guys our age remember when that [had more significance]. When  l look at Leonard Hamilton, I look at him as a peer whom I have a lot of respect for. Yes, he’s African American and I’m white redneck or whatever. But I look at him as a friend.”

Williams, Krzyzewski and everybody else might want to get used to this. This figures to be more than a cameo for Florida State.

By Jeff Schultz

70 comments Add your comment

weaseal

March 11th, 2012
4:44 pm

Nice win -Go Noles

Josh

March 11th, 2012
4:47 pm

Love it! Go Noles!

Steve

March 11th, 2012
4:54 pm

Funny how far Tech’s basketball program has fallen. It must suck when you are a basketball school and your basketball team sucks. Great article Jeff!

Paul in NH

March 11th, 2012
4:59 pm

Excellent piece Jeff. FSU deserved their win today – they played hard and demonstrated a great deal of mental toughness. Hamilton has built to this over the last few years and you are right – they’ll be in the mix in the ACC in the future – although they will have a number of players they need to replace.

The Anti-Buzzdraft

March 11th, 2012
5:05 pm

I guess this kills the Tech Fans’ theory about the quality of BCA coaches and their coaching in the ACC. No need to respond, just let it sink in.

wxwax

March 11th, 2012
5:07 pm

I remember one time at the Mall over Christmas I got a bad wrap too. :)

moorman

March 11th, 2012
5:23 pm

Great article and a good win. In fact, that win in itself is great for the ACC……..who doesnt get tired of duke and carolina winning it every year. Now, if only tech could get back into the mix………….

Merrill Guice

March 11th, 2012
6:03 pm

I remember when Florida State was trying to get into the ACC and the focus was on making sure they were also a basketball school instead of a football-only member. The thinking was that the ‘Noles would dominate football every year; so, having them lose at basketball would bring some balance. Heh.

Gordon

March 11th, 2012
6:15 pm

No one at Tech questions the ability of BCA coaches, anti-BuzzDraft. We questioned the ability of Paul Hewitt, and that was based on 6 underachieving years. If he had produced like Hamiliton has, he would still be our coach.

Gordon

March 11th, 2012
6:18 pm

Is it just me, or has it become very annoying to try to post on the AJC site because of the screen constantly scrolling back to the top? You would think a dying newspaper would not try to drive readers away.

GTBob

March 11th, 2012
6:22 pm

It must suck when you are a basketball school and your basketball team sucks.

When did GT become a basketball school?

Nole girl 93

March 11th, 2012
6:32 pm

I was proud to watch the Noles win this weekend. It was a great show of determination. There is class, and there is class. I’ve seen exemplary class displayed this year by Bernard James when he was ejected from a game and wrote a letter of apology to the president of UVA, the coach, and the president of the ACC. Class exemplified in this year’s tournament by the quotes above from the respect of these two coaches. And class by Duke’s coach making an effort to step into the locker room yesterday to congratulate Michael Snaer. I am proud to be an alum of FSU today. Go Noles. This is a great day for my alma mater!!

Old School

March 11th, 2012
6:37 pm

Really impressed with Florida State. Like Dickie V said, they played to win, instead of getting conservative and playing not to lose. Well done ‘Noles. But a 3 seed?

Steve

March 11th, 2012
6:52 pm

Good point GTBob. I guess Tech is neither. Poor nerds.

Congrats

March 11th, 2012
7:04 pm

Congrats to FSU. They had an excellent season and earned it. The city of Atlanta looked good. Philips with its broken scoreboards is showing its age due to cheap ASG all of which is embarrassing Those attending seemed to enjoy exciting competitive games despite the venue.

kral

March 11th, 2012
7:07 pm

will someone please remove..”body of work”…”eye- test”…from the English language ..esp. sports talk…they do not mean crap…congrats to those in the dance

athletic supporter

March 11th, 2012
7:18 pm

Thanks for beating those wankers from duke and unc. So gross, their fan’s deserve each other.

DawgNole

March 11th, 2012
7:26 pm

Shultz: “Florida State led by nine points at halftime (49-40) and by as much as 16 early in the second.”
______________________

Actually, the Noles led by as much as 16 late in the FIRST half–and by as much as 14 early in the second. More importantlly, they became one of very few teams to beat BOTH Duke and UNC TWICE in the same season. They have earned the accolades they’re receiving.

Gordon

March 11th, 2012
7:49 pm

Steve,

68-56 from our worst team in 30 years. Gregory is in year 1, Fox is in year 3. Get a clue.

Midtown

March 11th, 2012
7:55 pm

Dulkys and Loucks combine for 26 of the ‘Noles points….with Loucks delivering 13 assists…..great to be a ‘Noles fan today…nice recruiting Coach Hamilton.

Captain

March 11th, 2012
8:01 pm

Gordon @6:15
didn’t Hewitt take GT to a Final Four? Paul Hewitt did a very fine job at GT problem was he was African American and GT supporters were never comfortable nor satisfied with him. He had a tough job at GT, recruit the guys to win but lose them to the NBA, or take lesser talent and not win. GT is NOT in the same class as traditional schools such as Duke, UNC, Maryland, NC State but the supporters had the mistaken idea GT was an upper echelon program. GT supporters have a very distorted perception of the GT program, nobody views the program as special but GT people.

Hewitt is a good man, he did a good job at a school with high school facilities at the time. Someone felt he was a great fit how else did he receive such a great contract?

FAN

March 11th, 2012
8:12 pm

Get your own or design you own just email your needs.
http://atlantahaulitallinc.com/Bird_Houses.php

5150 UOAD

March 11th, 2012
8:13 pm

I hate FSU but that was a GREAT win for the NOLES.

GT Alum

March 11th, 2012
8:18 pm

Think you got a typo Jeff in the 5th paragraph…

“The Seminoles are ACC champions – in football, not basketball”

Might want to flip that.

Mike

March 11th, 2012
8:18 pm

I think the author meant to say “in basketball, not football” toward the beginning of the article. Great win for the Noles!

Gordon

March 11th, 2012
8:24 pm

Captain,

The African American excuse is getting REAL old. People weren’t comfortable with him because after his top assistants left in 04 and 05, the bottom fell out. He had the contract he did because he did a GREAT job the first 5 years and he deserved it. The rollover clause was given as an exchange for paying him several hundred thousand dollars under market value after the final four run. But the last 6 years were a disaster. He had ample time to turn it around.

The perception of GT fans regarding our program is based on a 12 year run by Cremins from the mid 80s to mid 90s when we made the NCAAs 10 out of 12 years (bubble other 2 years), won 3 ACC tournaments, and went to the final four. Hewitt’s first 5 years also were proof you can succeed at Tech. The excuse about facilities is just that – an excuse. Cremins did more with far less. It is just like the other Hewitt classic “we’re young”.

The bottom line is that Hewitt failed at Tech once the good assistants left. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a good person or won’t succeed at another level, but he drove our program into the ground. The record speaks for itself.

GTBob

March 11th, 2012
8:32 pm

Good point GTBob. I guess Tech is neither. Poor nerds.

Neither? What was the other option?

Robards

March 11th, 2012
9:51 pm

Jeff, It meant something to Maryland the one time in recent history that the Terps won. Nonetheless, Duke and UNC have continued to win pretty much every year.

Get Real

March 11th, 2012
9:57 pm

Gordon….it is not just you, the screen scrolling back to the top is quite annoying….

Hive Talk

March 11th, 2012
11:08 pm

The racist comments on the hive and other sites against CPH show the mindset of many of the GT fan base. Comments about CPH’s suits being ghetto and him only recruiting street ballers are veiled attacks on his race. One fan went as far as calling Glen Rice Jr a thug. His father is a millionaire but he’s a thug? Why, because he’s African-American? Another fan wished for CBG to recruit only freckled faced kids and not the athletes (African-American) that Hewitt recruited. The problem with Tech fans is that they are stuck in the CBC era where one and dones were not the norm. As the game changed recruiting changed. BC didn’t get it, Hewitt got it, Tech fans didn’t get it.

5150 UOAD

March 12th, 2012
2:35 am

All the upperclassmen leave this year and FSU will be an ALSO RAN next year again. Great game. UNC was missing a BIG piece today. UNC shouldn’t have been playing and NCSU should have. The NCSU v FSU game would have been great to watch too. The Ugly Step sisters trying to wear the Glass Slipper would have made for a great story-line. The ACC still don’t Fear the Spear on the hardwood.

Nole girl 93

March 12th, 2012
4:17 am

Dude, the Noles made the sweet sixteen last year. Guess you don’t pay much attention past SEC football?

Nole girl 93

March 12th, 2012
4:19 am

Dude, FSU made the sweet 16 last year. Hamilton has been at FSU six years and has made this program legit certainly better than GT (which was dismal on Thursday night.)

ormewood

March 12th, 2012
5:31 am

Hamilton is a very underrated coach. FSU has won 10+ ACC games four consecutive years. That’s impressive. The outcome might have been different had Henson played, but give FSU credit. They went 4-1 versus Duke and UNC. They do lose a lot after this season, but for that matter, so does UNC.

Gordon

March 12th, 2012
5:54 am

Hive Talk,

Illinois just fired their coach, who went to the championship game the year after Hewitt did. Since he is white, I guess in their case it was just a school firing an underachieving coach, but in our case it is because we didn’t like the coach because he is black.

Just because a few people on a message board make some stupid comments doesn’t mean the entire fanbase is racist. That is just a pathetic excuse. At some point you have to produce results. Hewitt couldn’t and so he is deservedly gone.

Say Whut

March 12th, 2012
6:10 am

Luckily for FSU, ACC refereees BRIAN DORSEY (who personally made sure UNC won its game over N. C. State,) and KARL (It’s all about me) HESS, were not working the game.

Hess was hiding in the Big East tourney and DORSEY was doing whatever sorry officials do on a day when they aren’t working.

ormewood

March 12th, 2012
6:26 am

Say Whut, was Brian Dorsey responsible for those two NC State turnovers their last two possessions?

jeffrey d

March 12th, 2012
6:36 am

Think you got a typo Jeff in the 5th paragraph…

“The Seminoles are ACC champions – in football, not basketball”

Actually, the ACC determines its football champions on the basketball court

ToeMeetsLeather

March 12th, 2012
6:48 am

Great win for the Noles’, anyone other than Rat Face and the Ref aided Tarholes is fine by me. But Hamilton played yesterday with six seasoned seniors, TECH will finish ahead of them next year in the conference standings.

Hope the Noles make some major noise in the NCAA dance this year!

Hive Talk

March 12th, 2012
6:52 am

Gordon, who said the entire fan base was racist? Stick to the facts in the post.

Gator Mike

March 12th, 2012
7:18 am

Well done Noles! Congrats!

bali

March 12th, 2012
7:35 am

i have really enjoyed watching fsu play basketball this season….congrats to coach hamilton..think he has really done a great job building his basketball program at fsu… duke and north carolina have great programs but is good to see other teams come to the forefront in the acc

Gordon

March 12th, 2012
7:54 am

Hive Talk,

“The racist comments on the hive and other sites against CPH show the mindset of many of the GT fan base.”

Your opening statement gives the impression that a significant portion of the fanbase is racist. That is patently false. Hewitt was embraced when he became our coach, and Tech fans were very patient when things started going south in 2006 through 2008. After that, he began losing support as the losing continued. It had nothing to do with his race.

Right now Leonard Hamilton is “the man” in Tallahassee, and he should be. But if he has as 6 year run like Hewitt did, he will be out there as well. It will have nothing to do with his race, just like it had nothing to due with Illinois’ Bruce Weber firing. To make the kind of money these guys make, you have to produce over the long haul. If you don’t, you’re out. Please leave race out of it.

By the way, most of the George Mason fan base isn’t happy that Hewitt couldn’t get their team into the NCAA’s or even NIT the first year. No one is calling for his head, but if he doesn’t perform they aren’t going to keep him around. I guess they are just a bunch of racists up there in Fairfax.

A Father

March 12th, 2012
7:59 am

Florida State has a great opportunity to win the NCAA. Couple of very tough teams stand in the way but this could actually be a great run.

steverino

March 12th, 2012
8:07 am

Congrats to Coach Hamilton and the Seminoles on a historic and exciting victory. They earned the ACC Championship in every sense of the word. However, they are just a missed open shot (or two) by the Heels from being an also-ran…a ‘nice try, great effort’ story that gets programs unfairly labeled if it happens more than once or twice in a few years time. I’m not minimizing the feat…just a commentary on the tenuous nature in regard to the difference between terrific success and ‘meh’.

A Father

March 12th, 2012
8:10 am

Schultz; will you please show CT how to stand up and pee, he ia a baby.

CT is blocking all post about the arrest of Brandon Smith who we all know was one of the many that were allowed to play against your Florida Gators in 2011 after flunking a drug test twice. This is not Brandon Smiths second time, this is his 3rd time. Not to worry, Mark Richt religion allows dope smoking and assault on females.

simple

March 12th, 2012
8:11 am

UNC had a star out…

A Father

March 12th, 2012
8:12 am

You really need to straighten CT out, he is blocking all post regarding the arrest of Brandon Smith who also flunked drug test prior to Florida 2011 football game but played and was never punished.

The Donk

March 12th, 2012
8:17 am

“The Seminoles are ACC champions – in football, not basketball.”

FYI…I think you reversed these. From my reading, you were trying to show the oddity that is FSU winning an ACC title in basketball.

steverino

March 12th, 2012
8:23 am

GT fans who have closely watched CBG’s first season as HC have reason for optimism, (even though much of it was difficult to look at). That optimism is something that was all but abandoned during most of CPH’s last few seasons at Tech. Will it result in 20+ win seasons and/or ACC championships. Possibly. Nothing is guaranteed. That’s why you play the game. Ask FSU. Indications are that Gregory is instituting a system and mindset that should once again make GT a “player” in the ACC and beyond.